Saturday, October 31, 2020

Jake Bugg 'All I Need' - Single Review

Jake Bugg sticks two fingers up to yesterday with new single sound, but is it all HE needs?

It feels as though barely a day has gone by since Jake Bugg burst onto the scene with his brilliant self-titled debut, captivating the minds of so many working-class teens and distinguishing himself from the sea of bland acoustic singer-songwriters saturating the market at the time. 

Tipped to be the Bob Dylan of the 21st Century, it was no surprise that Bugg quickly became a household name, cementing himself as one of Britain’s brightest talents with anthems ‘Lightning Bolt’ and ‘Two Fingers’ quickly becoming Indie Rock mainstays for the years to come. His follow up ‘Shangri La’ also impressed; however, such lofty heights bring equally lofty expectations, a curse I believe Bugg would feel in the years to come. 

After a three year break, Bugg’s third album ‘On my one’ was released to comparatively modest reception, and although possessing artistic merit, lacked edge and character that his prior works bragged in abundance.  The release of Bugg’s most recent studio album ‘Hearts That Strain’ in 2017 was sadly a similar affair, and ultimately left fans including myself wondering if the Jake Bugg we all fell in love with was gone.  


Fast-tracking to more recent times, Jake Bugg’s last twelve months in music have certainly been interesting. His collaboration with British DJ duo CamelPhat last summer spelt uncharted territory in his musical journey so far, lending vocals to the pulsating house beat on ‘Be Someone’ that I for one was greatly excited by. Entering 2020, Bugg announced a new album would be coming to us by the end of the year, providing well needed excitement to fans that were unable to attend the warm-up shows due to Covid-19. Since the announcement, three singles have been released, all donning Bugg’s synonymous blend of crooning vocals and fervent strumming that make a return to electronic experimentation unlikely. The Missispi Delta inspired slide guitar on ‘Kiss Like Sun’ and thumping staccato riffs on ‘Rabbit Hole’ both possess a heavier flavour that hasn’t been seen from Bugg in recent times, and both certainly serve as solid tracks to have on any album. ‘Saviours of the City’, released between the two, is a more recognisable ballad that possesses beautifully aching vocals and sweeping arpeggios, and is in my opinion the pick of the bunch. If that isn’t enough for fans to chew on however, Bugg’s latest single ‘All I need’ was released yesterday, and I was dying to get into it.  


The track begins with a plucky high tempo melody that immediately demands the attention of the listener, conveying a clear message that this will be no ballad. The message is cemented with the percussive hand claps that follow, providing a rhythmic anchor clearly made for a song to be danced to in their design. The verse is energetic but tight, and aside from the rashly over-distorted bass doing its best to muddle the track’s uniformity, makes for a decent listen. After an effective pause the chorus kicks in, boasting both a brass section and gospel choir backing vocals that provide a feeling of ascension that uplifts the listener, while building anticipation for each line that succeeds the last.


However, the mirage soon wears off, and it quickly becomes apparent that the overall composition of the song, albeit captivating, is pretty stylistically derivative to many other pop artists of today, Ed Sheeran springing to mind in particular. In addition, after shifting one’s gaze from the dominating instrumentals, what is left are lyrics that are frankly devoid of any real meaning in substantial parts of the song. This to me seems most unlike Bugg, an artist who’s past work always favoured emotive and passionate lyricism over disposable pop jingles. After another verse and chorus or two the song finishes, and in the silence, my first thought is one of surprise, followed quickly by a pang of disappointment. Don’t get me wrong the song is strong, but all the same feels like a forced effort to please the mainstream audience, which given the positivity surrounding his recent singles is largely unnecessary.


In a sentence, the song is a Dance-Pop Hit, and although I believe it will certainly live up to be just that, it just doesn’t feel like the Jake Bugg I fell in love with. Having said this, I still maintain high hopes for the album, I just hope that fancy studio tricks and dizzying recording budgets don’t take away the soul of Jake Bugg’s music; Music that infatuated so many once upon a time.

- Morgan Sherwin


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